Anna Webber, Percussive Mechanics (Pirouet)

9 Jun

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New York-based Anna Webber is a young Canadian saxophone and flute player slowly building a reputation. 2010’s Don’t Need to Worry about Anything with her Third Floor People Project was a nice surprise. She confirms with yet another band this time put together with mainly promising European musicians and, as the album title suggests, a serious dose of drums and percussion.

One should not expect a heavily rhythmic affair, though. The array of percussion Webber convened (vibraphone, marimba, glockenspiel, two drum kits, etc.) is harnessed to be the engine that propels and guides the music as it curves and shifts. And this is crucial since a major trait of Webber’s compositions is their loose structure. They do not rely on the traditional head/improvisation/head format. To a certain extent, most of her pieces can be construed as mini-suites divided into multiple short parts – and they achieve a rare balance between challenging and accessible music.

Moreover, her breezy and compelling pieces allow time for introspection and emphasize the musicality of the percussion instruments, which does not rule out a touch of zaziness as the insanity-fuelled climax of the title-track bears witness. The only quibble might be the sequencing with the two most contemplative tracks slated back-to-back towards the end of the recording, thus jeopardizing the momentum gained so far.

Finally Webber’s priorities focus on group cohesion, coherent voicing, and seamless transitions, which also underline her talents as an arranger. Every move has a purpose; there is no wasted gesture, nor any flashy virtuosic display. Indeed, even in the freest passages, this septet is never guilty of meandering or noodling.

– Alain Drouot

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